Sushiwa

This is my favorite kind of review — the chance to tell you about a place you probably don’t know about, but should. At least if you’re a sushi lover.

It’s Sushiwa, one of what I think of as the new generation of sushi bars. Except that, unlike the rest, this one isn’t crowded.

What makes sushi bars like Sushiwa different? Mainly that their whole reason for being is to make sushi more accessible for Americans — a wise business plan, being that this is, after all, America. The majority of their sushi and sashimi generally is made of more familiar (to Americans, anyway) components, such as tuna, yellowtail and salmon. The various offerings are in very creative combinations, often borrowing from other culinary traditions, and sometimes cooked. The sushi tends to have clever names, many of which are not suitable for a family newspaper (although Sushiwa’s list is far more G-rated). And it seems that most of them have Korean as opposed to Japanese ownership.

I’m not sure about that last point in regard to Sushiwa, because I tend not to buddy around with restaurant owners. But I think the fact that the specials board listed a Korean barbecue sushi roll ($15) is kind of a dead giveaway.

See what I mean about borrowing from other culinary traditions? This one was really good, too, with Korean-style barbecue both inside the roll and kind of atop it. Though it might seem like an obvious choice considering the Korean ties of many of these places, it’s one I hadn’t seen before, and a nice creative touch.

Tomato is something else we don’t often associate with sushi, but there it was in the Henderson Roll ($13). This rather user-friendly rendition is based on the California Roll — your basic beginner’s sushi for the squeamish — which means it entails crab (or more often "krab"), avocado and cucumber. The hometown specialty, though, is topped off with slices of tuna and equally thin slices of tomato, bringing in a lot of color, texture and flavor.

And, OK, mango in sushi? I’m not even that crazy about mango, but there it was in the Banzai Roll ($12), and I couldn’t resist, because it was just such a border-bender. And this is the way I can eat mango — in small quantity so its perfumy sweetness isn’t overwhelming. Anytime I can get it in concert with spicy tuna and crunchy fried yellowtail (and of course sushi rice), so much the better.

The shrimp tempura roll ($8), which we’re seeing a lot of around town these days, was just what it sounds like, a combination of two Japanese culinary traditions with some avocado, cucumber and crab (or krab) thrown in because shrimp tempura wrapped in sushi rice would be sort of one-note not-so-wonderful.

We were particularly impressed with the artful presentations at Sushiwa, and nowhere was this more evident than in the Pocky Roll ($11), subtitled "Avocado Lover." What we were served was basically a whole avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced, but not disassembled. It was stuffed with crab (or krab) and albacore, and it was not only novel but extremely tasty, with each slice pulling away with a bit of filling for a nice combination of flavors.

Like many sushi bars in the new generation, Sushiwa confines its sushi mostly to rolls, with the exception of a short list of sashimi. One of the few nonrolls was the Screaming Orgasm ($15), which we’re also seeing a lot of around town (and I am so not going to go there). Like the other versions, it’s a pile of shredded vegetables (mainly daikon) in a uniquely addictive sauce. Strips of tuna are generally involved, but in this case it was wide strips draped over the pile for a very attractive presentation.

Good gyoza ($5) — actually potstickers — and nicely warmed edamame ($3) were a fine beginning, and tempura ice cream ($6), which was much better than it looked, was a fine ending.

Service was prompt and pleasant, the atmosphere attractive and serene. (And if you have a non-sushi-eater in your party, there’s teriyaki and katsu, too.) There’s really nothing that I didn’t like about Sushiwa.

Except that pretty soon, it might not be so uncrowded.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@reviewjournal.com.

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